It wasn’t easy to narrow down my list of best actresses, but since it must be done for the sake of a Top Ten, here they are, from least to best:

#10 Kate Hudson – best films with Kate Hudson include How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Raising Helen, Almost Famous, and The Four Feathers. Kate is still building a decent portfolio, but she’s definitely on the right track. She brings a level of sophisticated hip wit to both dramas and comedies that are unique for her age group.

#9 Diane Lane – Diane Lane deserves her own spot within the top ten for her class and style. If she never made another decent film, Under the Tuscan Sun has immortalized Ms. Lane in romantic comedy history.

#8 Winona Ryder – Winona was excellent in Edward Scissorhands and decent in Reality Bites. I don’t know why she doesn’t make more films. More recently, she did well in Autumn in New York, Girl Interrupted, and Simone. Honestly, Ryder could have ended up much higher on the list if she hadn’t disappeared from my radar for so many years.

#7 Kristin Scott Thomas: I cannot picture a better tragically romantic character actress than Kristin Scott Thomas. My favorite films with her in it are The English Patient, Life as a House, and The Horse Whisperer. In each role, she mastered the art of shame, disappointment, and desire.

#6 Gwyneth Paltrow – While it’s probably true that Gwyneth owes her celebrity to Brad Pitt, she has still made quite a stir on her own in Hollywood. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1998 for her role in Shakespeare in Love – one of my top 20 all-time favorites. She starred opposite Pitt in the instant cult classic film, “Se7en.” From there, she won the hearts of millions of female fans for her starring role in Emma. Sliding Doors was her next major film, which didn’t see as much success for some reason. Gwyneth came roaring back with a vengeance with a powerful performance in Great Expectations, one of my Top 5 movies of all-time. Hush and A Perfect Murder were so-so films. Yet again, Gwyneth proves her ability to rule the silver screen in The Talented Mr. Ripley, Duets, Bounce, Shallow Hal, Possession, Sylvia, and Proof. She really enters into her own with Proof. No one can doubt that she is a serious actress, completely deserving of the acclaim and attention she has received. Lucky for us, Gwyneth appears to be keeping a busy acting schedule.
#5 Cate Blanchett – Blanchett got my attention with Elizabeth back in ‘98. I still remember exactly where I saw that film. It was a two movie special – I watched Stepmom and Elizabeth back to back. Roles in Pushing Tin and The Talented Mr. Ripley were just fillers until her stellar performance as a psychic on The Gift. She was sufficient (though not extraordinary) in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Her most recent successes (which I haven’t even seen yet) are Charlotte Gray, The Shipping News, Veronica Guerin, The Aviator, The Good German, and Notes on a Scandal. I really haven’t seen enough of her, but she has a reputation which earns her this spot.

#4 Susan Sarandon – my favorite Sarandon film was Stepmom. It was a warm and unforgettable piece. Though she hasn’t played any extremely memorable roles recently, she has done very well in the past and will likely do so again in several of her eight upcoming projects. Sarandon was celebrated for her role in Dead Man Walking, but I prefer her in films like Anywhere But Here, Cradle Will Rock, The Client, and, of course, Thelma and Louise.

#3 Nicole Kidman – Nicole really didn’t arrive until Far and Away. She and Tom Cruise both delivered incredible performances in that film. She seemed to go downhill with To Die For. Moulin Rouge and Eyes Wide Shut were big films for her, but they were definitely not for me. The Hours is the film where Kidman earns the respect of her peers. Cold Mountain and The Interpreter were both solid performances. Honestly, she wins major cred for her fole in Far and Away. She just doesn’t seem to get the right roles very often.

#2 Meg Ryan – There is no single actress that can draw me to a film like Meg Ryan. She is the queen of the romantic comedy. She’s cornered the Hollywood market on cute and witty. Her best films include Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, French Kiss, I.Q., Addicted to Love, City of Angels, Proof of Life, Kate & Leopold, and Hanging Up. Meg is not limited to comedy, as we see in City of Angels, Proof of Life, and In the Cut. She may not be the most diverse actress, but nobody nails her genres like Meg.

#1 Jodie Foster – My favorite Jodie Foster films include Panic Room, Little Man Tate, The Silence of the Lambs, and Nell. Second tier includes Candleshoe, Contact, and Maverick. She is obviously one of the most intelligent and well-rounded actresses ever. She can do comedy, tragedy, suspense, family, sci-fi… you name it – Jodie Foster can do it. There is no one who can do it better.

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